Latin Post presents "Turnout," a series that feature leading Latino politicians, government leaders and advocacy groups discussing and debating the most important issues facing the Latino voting bloc.

Regarded as "one of America's great labor and civil rights icons," Dolores Huerta has dedicated her life to advocating labor and civil rights, and her work continues as the Latino electorate brave the 2016 presidential election season.

"I believe the Latino community can be the 'deciders' and we saw that happen in the 2008 election and the 2012 election. We are so many voters at this point in time even in many states where we have small percentages like in the state of Virginia," said Huerta. As Latino Decisions reported, the rate of Latino eligible voters in Virginia grew by 76 percent in Virginia between 2000 and 2010, outpacing all other ethnic groups.

According to Huerta, who advocated for the rights of farm workers, immigrants and women -- notably during her tenure with the Agricultural Workers Association and United Farm Workers, which she co-founded with Cesar Chavez -- the White House needs an individual who will fight for the issues the Latino community cares about in 2016.

"The majority of the Latino population are working people, and we need somebody that is going to fight for the working people. ... It's not a question of your surname or the language that you can speak, it's a question about what values you hold," said Huerta in response to comments she has made preferring a woman in the White House than a Republican Latino.

Huerta, born in New Mexico, was asked about the state's Republican Latina governor, Susana Martinez, and if she would ever receive her support.

"[Martinez] has tried, unsuccessfully, to stop issuing driver's licenses to undocumented people. She actually, recently, tried to pass a law to stop labor unions from collecting dues from their members. This is a woman that is anti-workers [and] antilabor organizing. She might be a Latina, she might be a woman, but we definitely do not want anybody like her to run for the presidency."

Huerta stated Martinez has "done a lot of harm" for New Mexico.

Huerta reiterated her support for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but the support is not solely based on gender. She explained, "[Clinton] is a strong woman. She has the experience [and] she's been connected with the Latina community for many decades even before she was the secretary of state or when she ran for the presidency the first time."

In early May, Clinton revealed her stance on immigration, which included support of President Barack Obama's executive actions and plans to further build on it. Huerta said Clinton is someone that has already built trust with the Latino community, an element all political candidates need. The civil rights leader said she has a lot of faith on Clinton and is confident she will fulfill her campaign promises.

In regards to the Republican presidential candidates, starting with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Huerta acknowledged his initial effort for comprehensive immigration reform but then "stepped out of the picture" and issued statements that the DREAM Act was a mistake and sought to defund the program.

"I think that he (Rubio) is a person we cannot trust because I think he's an opportunist and he's going to say what he needs to say just to get himself elected," Huerta said. "He speaks out of both sides of his mouth because first he said he was for immigration reform and then he didn't support President Obama's executive order, which would have brought tremendous amount of relief to many working people."

Huerta said Rubio is also following a talking point by Libre Initiative, a right-leaning organization that has received funding from the Koch brothers. She said Rubio, and Libre Initiative, have said Obama's immigration executive actions interfered with the legislative process of immigration reform, "which is very cynical considering that the immigration reform bill sat in the Congress and wouldn't even bring it up to a committee vote."

In regards to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Huerta referenced his anti-immigrant statements.

"He's another one that first he's against immigration and then says he's for immigration," said Huerta, noting his statements have maligned immigrants. She also believes his fluency in Spanish and marriage to a Mexican philanthropist will not give him an advantage with the Latino electorate.

Huerta also criticized Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and former Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the "hundreds and thousands" of Texans without health insurance.

Huerta said it does worry her about Latinos possibly voting for a candidate based on their last name rather than policy.

"We do know that many of our Latino population are disengaged. They're not listening to the news [and] many of them feel somehow their votes don't matter and they're really not on top of the issues," said Huerta. She added that Latinos might get "fooled" by a candidate's surname and also by organizations' efforts to "confuse" the Latino electorate, namely the Libre Initiative.

To help combat efforts to "confuse" the Latino electorate, Huerta has been working with People for the American Way (PFAW) to educate the Latino community and make aware the voices of anti-Latino figures on television or in print media.

On a previous edition of "Turnout," Latin Post spoke with Libre Initiative Executive Director Daniel Garza about the criticisms his organization has received, including funding from the Koch brothers and stance on several issues. Garza said individuals and groups have projected their own stereotypes about Libre Initiative. He said such individuals and groups "feel threatened" by an organization running a counter-narrative or proposals others do not agree with.

"They feel threatened for a couple of reasons: One, because again, it undermines their own agenda, and I think the weakness of their own ideas. Second, they feel threatened because there is this conceit in Latino progressive organizations and individuals who are more liberal that somehow the Latino community belongs to them, that is their territory and anybody that comes into the Latino community advancing a message that runs counter to theirs, they should be censored, they should be shutdown," Garza said last April.

"That is un-American, that is weak," he added. "If you feel strongly about your ideas, let's have an honest discussion about those ideas, let's have a debate and let the individual decide what is best for America."

In response to Garza's comments, Huerta said, "[Libre Initiative is] not supporting, in any single way that we can think about, the Latino community. I can't think of one thing the Koch brothers have done that have benefitted the Latino community. Why anybody would even want to work with them, why you would want to participate in this cynical approach that they're taking to confuse the Latino community about voting, I think is wrong.

"At this point, I would say they are the enemy of the Latino community. I would say to Mr. Garza, that why are you even doing this? We really don't have anything in common. We might have a debate about what they're doing. I think debate would be better than a conversation because a conversation that they are engaging in is one of deception to our community, and it may be a good way because that way we can bring up to the Latino community who is funding this whole program that they're doing to try to deceive our community."

Going back to the Republican presidential candidates, Huerta stated Cruz and Rubio may have a Latino last name and may speak the Spanish language, but that is not what Latinos need.

"Our people need somebody that is going to stand up there for them and fight for them for immigration reform, for better health care, for jobs, [and] for the minimum wage," continued Huerta, noting that the focus also needs to include climate change and women's reproductive rights.

"These are issues, actually, that affect our daily lives and often we don't think about these issues. The issue of global warming is one that affects all of us regardless of who you are. ... Latina women, in addition to being the least paid when it comes to wages, are also, in our community, the highest teen pregnancy [rate] than any other ethnic group."

Huerta has been involved in having Latinas become more engaged in politics, including runs for political office. Regardless of ethnicity, Huerta believes all women need to be more involved in politics. Recognizing the gender gap in political representation, Huerta said many Latinas may not feel as confident in running for political office, but she advised that they should still run because they can learn while on the job just as many men have done.


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